A funny thing happened to R-CALF, the scrappy organization of mostly western cattlemen. It sued USDA on Oct. 4 over a factsheet about the electronic identification of cattle and bison found on the department’s website.

Then USDA just removed it. The “Animal Disease Traceability” factsheet just disappeared from USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) site on the world wide web.

R-CALF does not want the federal government requiring cattlemen to use new technologies like radio frequency IDs to track cattle and bison across state lines. It likes old fashion and likely cheaper methods of branding and ear tags.

The issue has been around for years, and when the factsheet popped up last April, the Billing, MT-based R-CALF thought it had another fight on its hands.

The “guidance” document stated that USDA would require the use of radio frequency identification (RFID) ear tags on adult cattle and bison moved in interstate commerce beginning Jan. 1, 2023.

Harriet Hageman of the New Civil Liberties Alliance (NCLA) sued USDA on behalf of R-CALF in federal district court in Casper, WY, seeking to declare the RFID action as null and void.

Just days later, when Bill Bullard, R-CALF’s chief executive, went looking for the factsheet, it was gone. Search parties were called, and R-CALF found an archived version of the document filed away on the Government Printing Office’s site.

The government has yet to officially respond to the lawsuit.

The APHIS factsheet may have run afoul of two recent Executive Orders by President Trump. One orders federal agencies to compile a publicly available inventory of guidance documents within 120 days. The other requires agencies to keep and defend guidance documents, including those drafted outside a lawful rulemaking process.

“We hope that USDA’s removal of the ‘Factsheet’ from its website demonstrates that the agency acknowledges the strength of our lawsuit challenging its illegal effort at mandating RFID for livestock producers who seek to sell their livestock across state lines. Such a move would be a victory for the rule of law, confirm that “guidance” cannot be used to nullify a properly adopted regulation, and provide much-needed certainty for the industry,” Hageman said.

Bullard said R-CALF is ” pleased that the President of the United States recognizes this as a serious violation of the rights and privileges of U.S. citizens, particularly American cattle ranchers.”

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